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All kinds of problems - newbie at home pizza dough

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1. I can't get my dough to stretch out much from its ball. It keeps shrinking back.

2. When I toss it, I inevitably tear out the middle well before it takes shape.

3. I do not have the toss down right either. Fist? Open palm, both?


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  1. Sounds like you are not resting your dough enough. If the gluten is not given a chance to relax, it will be hard to stretch out the dough without it shrinking back.

    Can you tell us exactly how you are prepping your dough? That will help us pinpoint what you need or should be doing differently.

    1. 1. I can't get my dough to stretch out much from its ball. It keeps shrinking back.
      <You need to let the dough rest at least an hour for your second rising. Also, when you start stretching the dough, you really don't want to knead or work the dough ball too much. You pretty much plop your rested dough on floured counter and start stretching.>

      2. When I toss it, I inevitably tear out the middle well before it takes shape.
      <Tearing just means you don't have the gluten developed in your dough.>

      3. I do not have the toss down right either. Fist? Open palm, both?
      <Tossing... back of the hand, fingers form a C. Check out youtube for some pretty good videos on pizza tossing. Look for Tony Gemignani.>

      I find that a 60% water to flour ratio (by weight) makes a decent pizza dough.
      What recipe are you using for your dough?

      1 Reply
      1. re: dave_c

        I used Tony Gemignani method but could not seem to get it right. He uses a first and palm. I think the back of palm (rolled into a C) sounds better to me. I was throwing the dough all over the floor. Thank goodness the floor was clean. :=)

      2. Pizza recipe is Peter Reinhart's

        The original dough rested plenty -- overnight at first then another two hours on the counter after I stretched them out a bit. The problem may be that I messed up tossing most of them and rolled them back in a ball and started over. Maybe I need to let them site again for an hour?

        1 Reply
        1. re: SkipII

          Reinhart's recipe is pretty good.

          It does sound like your need to let the dough relax after your tossing practice. :-)

          I believe you start out on the counter and stretch/pull the pizza before you start tossing. I found the initial stretching and pulling helps a lot to create a round pizza that is tossable.

        2. Tossing is not necessary, largely for show. Since it seems to be causing your problems I'd recommend forming your pies on board instead. I start by pulling the dough in my hands and when it gets somewhat thinned out I lay it on the board and continue to form it by hand.

          And if you do suffer rips and have to ball it up and start over, yeah, you'll need to let it rest / rise again.

          1. Thanks for the help. I'll regroup!

            1 Reply
            1. re: SkipII

              You never want to re-ball pizza dough. You can repair a hole or two by pulling the dough together to form a flap and then pressing it together, but you can't start over. If you're concerned about messing up, make extra dough balls.

              Once you form the dough balls, you don't want to manipulate them in any manner other than forming the skin. No re-kneads, re-balls, folds or punch downs. Punch downs are great for bread, but they make pizza dough that's elastic/hard to stretch and produce a tough crust.

              If your dough is difficult to stretch without re-balling, then you'll want to do two things- use more water and knead it less. Additional water and less kneading will give you a slacker/more extensible dough. Too much water, though,and your dough will be sticky and too slack.

              You also, generally speaking, want to form the skin once, not in stages. You want to store the dough in round tupperware containers that are lightly oiled. Depending on the ambient temp and the amount of yeast you've used, you want to remove the containers from the fridge for about two hours, gently extract the dough from the container (without mangling it or deflating it) and then form the skin/add the toppings. If you do it in stages, it's difficult to cover it in such a way to prevent it from drying out. Once it dries out, it's incredibly difficult to stretch without tearing. Leave it in the container until you're ready to make pizza.

            2. Don't toss it. Its possible you overworked it too. Put the ball on a floured counter, and pat it flat, forming a slight crust on the outside. Then slowly stretch it, almost like doing the breast stroke on the counter, while rotating the pizza. If its starts bouncing back, let it rest for ten minutes.

              You can pick it up and do this using your fists, but its not necessary and may be more difficult than stretching on the counter.